Parents do not receive enough information about the cost of sending children to university, says a leading consumer rights campaigner. Last week, Martin Lewis, a personal finance expert and founder of moneysavingexpert.com, published a letter to Universities Minister Jo Johnson urging him to improve the transparency of the total cost of university.
The issue of increased cost for higher education in England has been a hot topic since the government announced that maintenance grants would be converted into loans. For students to receive the full loan, parents need a combined income of less than £25,000 per year. For families earning more than this, they will be expected to pay towards living costs, with the consumer website calculating that this amount is rising by up to 27 per cent this year.
However, Mr Lewis expressed concern that parents were not being warned that they are expected to cover an increasing amount of students’ living costs.
Mr Lewis explained, “Some parents of 2016 starters are expected to give 27 per cent more than those in a similar position in 2015.”
“The implicit premise is that parents will fill the gap, but implicit isn’t good enough, this must be made explicit.”
For new entrants to St Andrews, that gap between loans and living costs could be even higher. While available data suggests the average price of accommodation at English universities is between £4,000 and £5,000, the average cost of both catered and self-catered options in University accommodation at St Andrews is £6,284.
With record numbers of low-income students attending university, Mr Lewis emphasizes that, “The lack of transparency and clear guidance… leaves some students in a dire position.”
One Worcestershire parent told the BBC, “It has slowly dawned on us that we simply cannot afford to fund [our daughter’s] education if she decides to move away to study.”
“After years of hard work and determination we managed to achieve reasonable incomes and now find that we earn too much to get a decent maintenance loan to cover her living costs.”
Mr Lewis suggests a disclaimer by the Student Loans Company be written into each students’ entitlement letter outlining the sizeable difference between the cost of living and their maintenance loan in order to ensure that parents not be blindsided.
The Department of Education’s response, published by the BBC, stated that the current student finance system is “sustainable” and reminded that, “maintenance support is a contribution to students’ costs.”
The statement also indicated that specific universities may also offer financial aid.